As an employee at Pepsi Bottling Ventures, I walked with some of our sales folks for the first time in 1990, all the way to 42nd Street Oyster Bar. A couple of us stopped at Fat Daddy’s to have a beer before continuing on! Sheriff Baker told us we were too far behind the crowd, and we needed to get in the back of his cruiser to catch us up to the rest of the group.
The following year I helped set up the Pepsi products for the Walk and walked with everyone on the new route through Umstead Park. After that, I took over managing the products and making sure we NEVER ran out and streamlined set up so nobody would have to wait in line for beverages.
At the time I didn’t realize this event would become something so much more.
My personal attachment began in 1997, when my sister walked for the first time in support of her husband—they had recently separated, and he was involuntarily committed that year to Holly Hill. My four nephews, my younger sister and my mother also walked in support of him. His family history involved mental illness, as his own father committed suicide when he was a young boy.
A year later, on May 5, 1998, Remi Figueroa took my sister at gunpoint as she was arriving at one of her two jobs. Our family waited for hours until we received the news she had been found—a murder-suicide.
All the days leading up to the funeral were a blur; we were all in shock that something like this could ever happen to us.
A few days prior to the funeral, with a full house, Van Eure pulled into the driveway with trays and trays of food. It was the weekend of Mother’s Day that year, and one of the busiest weekends of the year for the Barn. It was only after everything sunk in that I realized what an awesome and kind gesture that was. It’s one of the reasons Van and the Angus Barn will always be so very special to me!
May 5th has been the hardest day of every year since. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to talk about this and share my story with people outside my inner circle. My younger sister has most recently been clinically diagnosed with depression, opening a new chapter to my family story as it relates to mental illness and the importance of the Foundation of Hope!